As a recovering pseudo-intellectual jazz snob the crazy thing is that from cover art to compositions to dealing with influences that range from Art Ensemble of Chicago to Giacomo Scelsi - this release really works!
The best description of Pretty Monsters is that it borders on more of an "experience" than a stereotypical release. I love different sounds and remember that different is never bad - just different. Young knows the members of her 4tet well and her compositions play to their strengths. Owen Stewart-Robertson is a technician with a fret board, Erica Dicker's violin work is the virtuosity of a symphony player that has finally cast of the creative shackles of form and functionality and is simply going for it. Keep in mind for some free jazz is an acquired taste. Drummer Mike Pride could easily be called rolling thunder with his heavy handed attack on drums yet his incredible finesse with all things percussion.
"Relief" opens this somewhat dark release with a lighter approach and an immediate visual of a mechanized jazz motor creaking to life as the group does a sonic exploratory with an organic sense of purpose. "Feldspar" is a sonic assault on the visceral and cerebral with intense precision and a harmonic deconstruction of controlled fury. Pride is simply insane on drums here bringing back memories of the late Keith Moon. A more determined and tighter harmonic bent is taken with "Deuterium." Comedian Martin Mull once said writing about music is like dancing with architecture. Heavy metal jazz on steroids with layers of texture that include guitar washes, violin drones, electronic flights of fancy all somehow tied to a virtuoso bassoonist whose compositions take everything you thought you knew or familiar with in the free or experimental jazz genre and politely tosses it right out the window and this is a beautiful thing. I would be remiss if I did not mention the incredible cover art done by Rob Patterson.
The term "free-jazz" or "experimental" gained widespread acceptance because some jazz writers had no idea what to call certain pieces of music from Ornette Coleman and other artists so they tagged it with an abstract label in an effort to distinguish the artist from the more main stream acts of the day. An editor with the Gannett publication that carries my work always told me, "water finds its weight." Now I get it..."Be The Ball Noonan." Free your mind.
Tracks: Relief; Patricia Highsmith; Feldspar; Crushed; For Autonauts, For Travelers; Deuterium; Entropy.
Personnel: Katherine Young: bassoon & electronics; Erica Dicker: violin; Owen Stewart-Robertson; Mike Pride.
photo creatively acquired from the press section of Katherine Young's web site.